Oxford and Nottingham

Month: March 2011

What is Rural Symposium: report

Photo: Nick May from Food Chain Exhibition

These observations base on notes taken on day. Thoroughly enjoyable but as notes reveal patchy.

Full website here : http://www.thecollaborators.org.uk/What_is_Rural.html

Steve Messam: Site-specific public artist
First speaker was standing in for Ian Hunter from Littoral.

Site-specific ‘sculpture’ mostly financed by business and aimed at the spectacular rather than the sublime.
To me suffered from the ’roundabout art’ disease that aflicts much ‘public art’ i.e. it grand and spectacular bit like a firework display to draw attention to itself and satisfy the ‘sponsors’ but as actual art almost non-existent. Mr. Messam was genuinely concerned with local issues and genuinely believes he not only drawing down significant wads of sponsorship but also highlighting important issues. At time there some depth as in his sheep pen covered in hides but mostly it looked like big buck = big bang art and the actual art almost irrelevant…i.e. why not fireworks and be done with it?

EMMA HEALD: Advisor for Natural England
Good overview of Natural England remit and challenges in current economic climate. Little direct relationship to arts it seemed.

Excellent grounded non-academic highlighting of real issues affecting modern farming. Learnt something…


Kate had been instrumental in bringing symposium together drawing on twin background in farming and the arts.

I found actual show confusing and the noble aspiration of rehanging it did not really help give a sense of artists in it. I reserve judgement and Adam’s drawings appeared interesting.


Three speakers round table. Not very enlightening and revealed more about the scarcity of funding post ACE.
Plowman safely berthed in academia and as with all three there an almost missionary zeal to ‘bring’ art to the poor downtrodden masses or as in Norfolk these days Bankers in 4X4s. None seemed to exist in real world at all compared to the farmer.

Indeed it could be argued that projects like Beacon are actually part of the problem not the solution for rural communities if they actually still exist. The proportion of residents actually living in coastal holiday towns and villages is below 40%. No number of art interventions or decorative arts galleries can hide that. I was irritated by the religious opportunism of ‘metropolitan’ minds who without hesitation believe ‘rural’ people need a site-specific application or another dubious alter-modern happening. I was not the only one who felt this.

Top-down not bottom up attitudes despite the conviction by the instigators/curators (and funding recipients) that they doing just that…naive in extreme and very Old Labour approach..i.e. throw culture at masses they will like it…..now as empty as the towns they tried to save……

Sarcastic footnote: Stoddart calls herself an INDEPENDENT CULTURAL ENGINEER..this cuts no ice with me and just shows the ego inflation prevelent these days in the sector…..curators ten a penny so I suppose this cultural re-branding..god help us


Old-school approach (Royal College) actually made beautiful artworks and had a significant practice founded on genuine knowledge and a historic sense of place and history. Note I have to highlight this as this kind of work few and far between these days!

TIM NEAL: Anthropologist (Wildsite and Tourism)
Wild card literally and at time seemed a little out of place but in hindsght the area which actually provoked most interest for me.
Instead of art practice buffoonery we had some fairly in depth analysis of what actually made people consider places as ‘rural idylls’ from Samuel Palmer on. His observations of English in France chimed perfectly with my experience on the ground in NORTH NORFOLK.
The images of ‘rural myth’ created by artists are along with curators above seriously implicated in the destruction of viable healthy rural communities. To wander through a pitch dark rural idyll as second home owners and holiday properties lay empty is to experience first-hand the effect of rural gentrification. Abstract pontificating or arty musings do not hide this desperate state of affairs.

The rural landscape is an increasingly depopulated picture-postcard manned by the modern swains i.e. transient workers and illegal immigrants. They if employed in something more than service industries man increasingly ruthless mass food production facilities which hidden from the Range-Rovers gaze by screens of trees.


The following exhibition of farm workers in 21st century brilliantly spotlighted this and suggested that the true artform of the modern era is documentary photography as nothing else is keeping pace with the destruction of rural values.


Nature of Landscape

The Nature of Landscape – Visions & Distillations of Landscape & Place
David Ainley, Jeremy Leigh, Stephen Newton, Judith Tucker, Richard Kenton Webb & The Abbey Walk Gallery Artists Group

March 8th to March 19th 2011

This March Surface Gallery will play host to an exhibition that marks the culmination of an Arts Council funded project which includes the work of sixteen artists and a composer.

The Nature of Landscape project was conceived of back in 2008 by artist–curator Linda Ingham, on seeing the work of Wirksworth-based artist, David Ainley on show at De-Da in Derby. “I was looking for a project to provide for the N.E. Lincolnshire Arts Forum”, says Linda, from her studio at Abbey Walk Gallery in Grimsby. “ . . . and as soon as I saw David’s work, I realised how interesting it would be to create a project that challenges the idea of how we think about landscape.” Ainley, who has a solo show running until the end of March at the New Court Gallery in Repton, makes subtle paintings and drawings that challenge the representation of landscape as ‘scenery’ or ‘nature’ and are at odds with the interpretative excesses of the heritage industry.

The curatorial approach has been to draw together work based on landscape, which contrasts visually as well as in terms of concept. Richard Kenton Webb’s work focuses very much on elements extracted and abstracted from the Cotswolds countryside, through which he has embarked on a systematic approach to explore colour; the work on show at Surface Gallery will be from the Red series.

Judith Tucker’s work concentrates on the mnemonic content and visually atmospheric subject of war-time German resorts, juxtaposed with contemporary timelines and their relationships in terms of historic resonance.

Jeremy Leigh’s work reflects very much the artist’s abstracted feelings in relationship to Yorkshire and Scottish landscapes that speak to him in terms of the open road, and the road less travelled.

Joined in this show by professor Stephen Newton, who wrote the introduction to the full colour catalogue that accompanies the work, the exhibition also includes the work of The Abbey Walk Gallery Artists group, and a film by Annabel Mc Court with a soundtrack by composer David Power.

The Nature of Landscape as a project grew out of the initial exhibition in 2009 at Abbey Walk Gallery, and has since consisted of subsequent shows at the gallery and at East Coast School of Art & Design, as well as a seminar, a series of workshops, the printed publication, and finally the Nottingham show. “Both the Abbey Walk Gallery artists and the degree students from ECSAD have benefited from the opportunity to develop their work as part of the project. Working with Judith, David, Richard and Jerry has been a positive and inspiring experience for all of us, and we are looking forward to showing the results at Surface Gallery”, says proprietor, Gillian Gibbon, “We hope that the public response to the very individual results of our broadened horizons will be just as positive.”

New RPT Practice: Original Project Proposal (amended March 2011)

Having realised that original proposal had become over-complicated I have returned to original short proposal.

This then is a slightly amended version of that original idea. Basically I wish to revisit exact locations where I drew a series of landscapes around my Oxfordshire hometown in the early 1990’s.


Blewburton Hill Oxfordshire 1991

Using an as yet unpurchased Android slate.

I will draw on tablet from exact previous location and then merge either in adobe or through a purpose built android app. with original drawing and a photograph of the view. There is also the multimedia option of engaging with text and music too.

If this successful I will then take on to a more ‘public’ version of app. Posibly launched through an exhibition at local art centre. This however I will remove from the proposal timeline and place after the July 2012 M.A. deadline.


Here original proposal (amended March 2011)

M.A. RPT 2010-12

A project focusing on site specific experimental multidisciplinary artworks merging traditional notions of practice with digital media,computation, and internet resources”

Multimedia – incorporating fine art and literary practice

The project is centred on site specific locations – a local art centre, an abandoned railway track (now a public thoroughfare) and a large area of downland previously documented in the 1990’s. The project will involve drawing/painting on a handheld device and access to internet resources specifically GPS locative applications.

I aim to draw together my multidisciplinary activities in one specific outcome. This may be an exhibition tied in with locative media that may involve public engagement depending on timeframe.



New RPT Theory

I have spent this week reconsidering the M.A. totally. To be frank I was considering giving up as it hasn’t exactly been inspiring.. Because of this I have decided to make it work for me by doing exactly what I want.

Below images of the new plan..it leans heavily into art theory/history territory which far more interesting than either current fine art practice or multimedia technology. If I get an M.A. for it fine if not it really doesn’t matter….

From now on the title remains:






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